Brent from Irondale Youth Hockey asks, “At what age is it appropriate for a young player to be solely dedicated to goaltending? Is there a benefit to making young goaltenders skate out?”
While young players should start focusing strictly on goaltending at the squirt level, a mite who loves the position and only wants to play goal should not be discouraged from doing so provided that the young mite does see time outside of the crease. Coaches must make sure full time mite goaltenders are getting enough time practicing the fundamentals of skating. There are benefits for mite goaltenders that take time to skate out. On mite teams with two goaltenders coaches should have the backup goaltender skate out during the games that he/she is not playing. This will help him/her develop as a skater and give him/her a feel for how the game is played.
Domenic asks, “What do you think is the best way to deal with two solid goaltenders on the same team, split each game 50/50 or play full games? Additionally, what would justify pulling a goaltender during a game?”
Goaltenders should play full games, alternating from one game to the next. A big part of development for a goaltender is learning how to stay focused and sharp for the entire game. Each game presents a goaltender with a new challenge. It is the goaltender’s responsibility to be ready for whatever the game presents. Playing the entire game helps goaltenders develop the mind set they will need as they move from one level to the next.
At the youth level a goaltender not competing would justify the decision to be pulled. Goaltenders need to battle and compete for the entire game no matter what happened on the previous shot. A next shot mentality needs to be established and goaltenders need to stay competitive no matter what the situation is that they may be facing.